Caustic may be a name fresh in your minds as of right now, but the Wisconsin based industrial musician had time to pause his busy life to answer a couple of questions about his latest album, his workings with Negative Gain, drama/controversy, and other nefarious things and subjects. The interview is as entertaining as it is worthy of your attention. So, go on, get reading and I'll shut up.
I and many other have noticed that you always have a punk edge to your music, and you have even stated that both industrial and punk go hand in hand with one another and that you have a love for both sides of the scene. Did you discover punk before industrial? Or did you kind of explore both genres at the same time?
Matt: When I grew up and really got into music in the late eighties, early nineties shit wasn’t so delineated—“alt” music encompassed a lot of stuff. I was into the Dead Milkmen just as much as Nitzer Ebb and into Jane’s Addiction just as much as Depeche Mode or the Cure. It was all hand in hand. I probably heard punk before industrial just by the nature of who I hung out with and MTV at the time, but I distinctly remember driving around at 3 in the morning on my seventeenth birthday blasting Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols. I also remember getting pulled over by the cops around that time because I was driving like a crazy person listening to The Land of Rape and Honey. It’s all high energy, pissed off peanut butter and jelly to me.
However, aside from punk, your music tends to be a bit bi-polar in genre influences. Hip-hop, 80s EBM, rock, metal, etc.; if it's a music genre, it can usually be found in one of your albums somewhere. When writing your songs, do you ever have a solid idea as to how they'll sound? Or is the music making process a very random, experimental process that you go through?
Matt: The joke is that my style of music is called “jizzcore”, but that in some ways can be defined just by what you’re saying—whatever sticks works for me (and enjoy the symbolism there). Bands like Pop Will Eat Itself and artists like Moby, who was at one point doing everything from straight techno to electro punk like Animal Rights, really resonated with me with their genre dexterity, while still maintaining their own voice and style. I don’t like being pigeonholed, so I do what makes me happy.
My process is usually me dicking around until I come across something, a groove or a sound, that clicks. Generally it starts with a drumbeat or a loop and I add a bassline and go from there. I usually put together a 45 second to minute clip and listen to it a million times in my headphones until lyrics come together. Occasionally I also have lyrics, or lines I like written down that just need a home. 'Attention Please', the opening track on Industrial Music, was mostly written lyrically before I came up with the music. Same with 'Gravity Bong'. It’s seeing what fits.
Now, everyone in the industrial scene knows you and Caustic and the like to be funny and almost like a court-jester among bands that have high egos and a king-like self worth. That being said, a lot of fans respect your opinion over everyone else. Having that sort of role in the scene, how often do you find yourself influencing either the thoughts or actions of your followers? Has there ever been a time where something you said made someone act in a stupid manner that you did not expect?
Matt: I don’t see what I say as meant to influence, because I think my opinions should be taken with a grain of salt, like anyone else’s. I definitely try and inspire and encourage people to try things they’re afraid to do. Fear of failure to me is stupid when it comes to creative endeavors. I’m not saying I’m fearless, because few are, but I’ve built up enough confidence to go down an unfamiliar rabbit hole if it seems interesting. Beauty Queen Autopsy is the result of that, as are a lot of tracks on my albums. I’m no beacon of uncompromising originality, but I do push myself to work outside of my normal boundaries and always question why things are the way they are. That comes from performing for years doing improv.
Most people also don’t realize people will listen to good points if you can make them entertaining. Humor works wonders for pointing out stupidity, and I always try and include myself as part of the problem if I’m criticizing something. I’m the first to point the finger at myself.
Anyone I fuck with usually has a good sense of humor about it. I’ve been around long enough that I know most everyone in the scene in one way or another, and I honestly never mean any harm by it and they know that. If I’m ever critical, it’s mostly because I hate lazy art and trite bullshit. In those cases I try and speak generally, because there’s not really a point in calling people out and starting bullshit. You can make your point without that, and if people are halfway intelligent they’ll figure it out anyway.
That being said, I'm sure Caustic has caused some controversy in the past. Have you ever had a squabble with another band in the past? Names can be withheld if needed, but what was it over and was the matter petty?
Matt: I used to be a lot stupider with shooting my mouth off, but over the years I learned to keep quiet. The last “controversy” I caused was a few years back when VNV dropped off the Skinny Puppy/Haujobb/Youth Code tour and I, assuming people would know it was bullshit, added myself as the replacement band using MS Paint. Apparently cEvin Key and Metropolis were getting all kinds of emails going “WHY THE HELL IS CAUSTIC ON THE BILL NOW?!” I ended up emailing the Skinny Puppy guys to apologize. Oops.
And I sort of have the same question for your fans. You are a joking man and all across your Facebook pages, both your personal page and Caustic's, you have a sincere sense of humor. However, sometimes fans just don't get that humor. Have you ever had a time when a fan or someone else was completely offended by a comment you made? And what happened in that or those situations?
Matt: Sometimes people don’t get the joke, or the sarcasm, but I find that even funnier. When we released the Fuck in a Suit video a lot of people actually believed me when I said the Men’s Wearhouse was putting a restraining order on me. Again, I assumed people would realize it was just me fucking around, but it doesn’t always translate. Now and again I have to let people know I’m messing around, but I try to be gentle about it.
Actually, I’ll correct what I just said—people who don’t speak English as a first language don’t get me at all sometimes. When I released the promo for Industrial Music where I list all the amazing industrial bands of the last forty years and then call them hacks, some people thought I was serious. WHY they did I have no idea, but oh well.
Speaking of controversy, let's talk about the Facebook/Side-Line drama that just occurred. I didn't get the whole story as I bumped into it halfway through, but I read that Side-Line took the in-joke between you and Gottesman seriously and posted about it. What exactly happened in the whole situation?
What I found frustrating about the whole mess was that a lot of people claimed our whole confrontation was a “joke” or a “stunt,” but the amount of fucking time myself AND my people had to put into rectifying this very real situation, in which I fired Eric from Caustic, then double fired him, then realized I accidentally rehired him, and was then subsequently fired BY him…okay, I know most people aren’t entertainment lawyers, but that shit is real. It happens every…fucking…day.
And then that asshole Tom Shear got involved and made it like twenty times worse. I’m just glad I finally got my page back after Shear fired Eric from Caustic and we mended our friendship to team up and fight him together.
While it is quite a humorous story, did the whole post on Side-Line ever really annoy you? I think I saw one of your Facebook posts mentioning that they haven't reviewed your past five albums, but then report on false drama.
Matt: Well it’s funny if you weren’t getting your soul ripped apart watching something you’ve worked over a decade to build and create get the equivalent of being shat on by the assholes of a million babies with gastrointestinal distress. Sure, I guess that’s chuckle worthy. Or not.
And Side-Line actually belittled our entire conflict, which, given how much “news” Side Line actually reports on, is unsurprising. They said how it was a publicity stunt and that “smaller bands” try to do all sorts of stuff for attention. This coming from the Facebook page that reported on the fan reaction to Eskil from Covenant’s shaving his head the day before. Let’s just say they’re no CNN. Hell, it’s not even Fox News.
I was only annoyed in that they gave undue attention on something I was trying to handle as quietly as possible. It was bad enough I Die: You Die (who WERE friends of mine) interviewed Eric right after I was ousted. They made the REAL drama worse, as now more eyes were on us, which encouraged Eric to post even more Minion memes. If a “magazine” is only going to give a shit about me when I’m having an emotional breakdown then I don’t need them.
Before we move on off this subject, I would like to say I was impressed by the amount of ham photos that was posted on the Caustic page. It made me crave a ham sandwich. And a ham sandwich I had afterwards.
Matt: Wow. Good for you. I’m glad Tom Shear’s DISassemblage of my page simultaneously entertained you and made you hungry. Have fun bouncing on his crank. I’m getting back to fucking work to repair all the damage he’s done.
Now let's move away from all that and talk about your music. You began up your own record label, Undustrial Records, to release your own music after being on labels such as Metropolis and Crunch Pod. When 2015 saw the release of Industrial Music, you signed to Negative Gain Productions. Why did you sign to Negative Gain for the release instead of just self-releasing the title? And how did you get in contact with the record label? Did they approach you or did you approach them?
Matt: Metropolis and I had an amicable split—it wasn’t a bad relationship, but I wasn’t getting what I needed out of the label as a whole and they weren’t getting what they wanted out of me, so we shook virtual hands and called it a day. I miss my good pal Jim over there a lot, as he was my only regret leaving as I loved working with him and he was always rooting for me, but I’m a medium sized fish in a pool of giant fish there, so I’m not going to get the same attention Combichrist or Covenant gets, and nor should I.
I had my eye on Negative Gain for a couple reasons: One was I liked Roger and Micah—Micah and I have known each other the better part of 15 years and Roger and I have talked off and on for a long time and we always got along well. The second, and more important reason, is that I simply love the Negative Gain roster. There are some of the most interesting and best artists in our lil world on this label (Alter der Ruine, Mr.Kitty, The Gothsicles, Cygnets, and now Ari Mason and Kanga, etc) and I wanted to add to that. In breaking it off with Metropolis I was basically just waiting for the “Thanks, and good luck” email from Heckman and then emailed Micah and Roger within minutes of that. We chatted a little, settled the basic terms, and now we’re all in bed together.
I like working with labels that are forward thinking, and Negative Gain is curating an amazing stable of artists. I don’t care if I’m on a label with the biggest bands anymore if I’m not into all the other bands on the label, and that was the case with Metropolis. With Negative Gain I can honestly say I dig every artist on there, and I’m honored to be a part of that family.
Also, I didn’t feel like dealing with all the business crap this time around. My wife was pregnant with our son and I had enough other shit to deal with. I would have sought them out regardless. I like being in this gang.
Negative Gain is an extremely respected label with the likes of Mr.Kitty, Squid Lid, and the recent sensation Ari Mason on their roster. In terms of how NGP has treated yourself and Caustic's property in comparison to your previous record labels, how have they been? Would you say they treated you the best so far?
Matt: They’ve been fantastic. They trust me and what I do and have supported me every step of the way. Metropolis was similar, as I have nothing bad to say about them on that front, but where I don’t think Heckman understood what the hell I was doing, Roger and Micah get Caustic and appreciate all the crazy shit I come up with.
I work best when I’m left to my good bad ideas and have the encouragement to implement them. I don’t ask for advances from labels—I just wanna do what I wanna do, and it usually works. The album has done remarkably well so far, so I’m nothing but pleased with how I’ve been treated. I’ve been trying to recruit other cool artists for them, too. Kanga and I have been online buds for a while and when she mentioned she was looking for a label I got them in touch, and her debut is going to kill—Rhys Fulber (who just did the amazing new Youth Code album) is engineering it.
If I wasn’t happy there I wouldn’t have bothered. It’s artists running a label for artists, and they’re smart about it. It’s a great team.
From a testament of love for the scene in general, to a tongue and cheek deconstruction of all current trends, to throwing back to your early days, “Industrial Music” seems to have it all. What was the overall concept/theme for the album?
Matt: I, like any artist probably, have plenty of self-doubt, and as Caustic “the joke band” I always felt I had something more to prove to people because no matter what I fucking put out someone will think I’m taking the piss. While that’s true SOMETIMES, it pushed me to make a few records just to show people I could. Golden Vagina was my club album, and The Man Who Couldn’t Stop was a massive, eighteen track concept album. I’m proud of them both, but this time around I just wanted to make a bad ass Caustic album with meat and potato tracks that just pounded people. I put so much on my plate with the last couple full lengths that I realized I don’t owe anybody shit and I’m not going to try and “prove” myself to anyone, and I loved the results. I made exactly what I wanted and how I wanted to do it. I worked with my regular team of pals (Josev of CTRLSHFT on mixing duties and Eric Oehler of Null Device on mastering) to finish it off, as we all have a shorthand because we’ve known each other a decade and a half and if I tell Josev I want the drums to be mixed like Ministry’s The Missing then that’s all he needs to know.
To your point, this was also a throwback of sorts for me—I wanted to use my old sound and make a new sound. I wanted to go back to my roots but show how much better I can do it now, and I think it turned out great.
Arguably, with the release of the music video coinciding with the album's launch, “Fuck In A Suit” became one of the most popular tracks on the album. I still see fans cracking a joke here and there whenever they see someone in a suit. In your opinion, which track on the album caught on the best with Djs and fans? And, if you could choose one song on the album that you like the most, which would it be and why?
Matt: 'Fuck in a Suit' and 'Michael Fucking Ironside' caught on pretty big with a lot of people (and didn’t get much terrestrial radio play, for some odd reason. Fuck if I know.) I like seeing people drop FIAS references here and there. It shows it resonated. That track is perfect for the election year, where everyone’s freaking out about big money buying politicians. I really hope that shit will change some day, but until then I guess I’m (metaphorically) advocating for the execution of the CEOs spending all that money for political favors.
I always like giving a little attention to the guys behind the camera/behind the editing for music videos. In the credits for the music video of “Fuck in a Suit”, it's said that it was directed by VIDEOPUNKS. Who are they and how was your experience working with them?
Matt: Videopunks is comprised of my pal Mike Mazzotta and his buddy Hex Taylor. Mike was the live video guy for Angelspit’s shows for a long time, and he and I hit it off at their Madison tour stop years back. He does a lot of old school VHS manipulation and I put together a decent budget for the track with my Kickstarter money so we did it. The concept was his, we bounced a few ideas back and forth, and they killed it. They’ve since worked with 3TEETH on one of their videos, too. People should check them out, as its nice getting that old school feel with new school gear and ideas.
Now that Industrial Music has been out for a couple of months, what are your thoughts on the album? Is it one of your favorite albums in Caustic's discography? Do you think that you could have done better with it? It this Caustic's best and brightest?
Matt: I think it’s great. There are always things you wish you could change, but you learn to let that go. I think it’s an album that may appeal to people outside of my normal fan circle too, although I called it Industrial Music because I really don’t give a shit anymore about acceptance or exposure outside of our scene. I just wanted to kill it on an album and think I did as well as I could. Is it my favorite album? It’s got some of my favorite songs I’ve ever done on it, but each album is like a disfigured baby to me—I love ‘em all, hideous as they are.
About a month after Industrial Music released, a companion album titled Industrial Remixes came out. I understand this came about with the help of the guys from I DIE: YOU DIE. I'm a huge fan of the articles they post and the down to earth content they put out. It's also been stated that you never really heard of the musicians they chose for the remix album. That being said, when you saw the artists they chose for the companion album, were you nervous at first or did you trust Alex and Bruce's choices?
Matt: I wasn’t even planning on doing a remix album until the thought of asking Alex and Bruce to curate it came into my head, and they were the ones who came up with the idea of doing it track for track with the original album. I’m always trying to give a fresh twist on an old (and, most of the time, boring) idea, and when they let me know they were down to help I knew they’d pick a lot of interesting artists. Some I’d heard of, some I was friends with, but a few were indeed brand new to me. I trusted Alex and Bruce’s choices implicitly though, and was going with whoever they decided. Knowing their tastes I figured some cool match-ups would take place, as each artist was specifically assigned a song from the album based on what the guys thought they could do with it, and I think the results were awesome. I made a few new pals in the process and have some wildly different interpretations of my tracks than I would have had I done it myself.
And I was never nervous. It was an experiment. What’s the worst thing that could happen?
More recently, you released your tenth free album on Bandcamp, Bomb the Club Mixes Maxi-Single. This time around, did you choose the remixers yourself? And why did you decide to release another set of remixes that coincide with “Industrial Music”?
Matt: I hit up a bunch of pals for the maxi-single, mainly because I thought getting tons of “club” mixes of a track that’s about how useless the club scene is would be funny. I loved the thought of a “maxi-single” too, as I loved those when they were a thing in the nineties. The Head Like a Hole one was in constant rotation in my car. Actually, if you’re familiar with that maxi-single there’s a stupid reference to it at the end of the last track on Bomb the Club Mixes. Why? I’m an idiot.
With the main album out and two sets of remixes done for Industrial Music, do you think that the album will finally be laid to rest? Or do you see yourself coming back to it to liven up the album again?
Matt: No idea. The nice thing about the internet and music these days is you can make up your own rules. I’ve got a few ideas in the works, and the album’s only been out 6 months, so things like the maxi-single are a good way to get music in people’s proverbial mitts but also to remind them that the album’s out there.
You are not only involved in Caustic, but also have Beauty Queen Autopsy and The Causticles under your belt. How are things going with those two bands? Do you have anything in the works or any news you can share about them?
Matt: Brian and I just agreed on the title for the next album, or what it may be, but we haven’t done much else other than bat around a couple stupid song titles. He’s been crazy busy with doing shows on the last Gothsicles album and promoting Hardcore Pong, his thing with Zoog from Angelspit. I’ve been busy putting out BQA and the new Caustic, so we’re cheating on each other for a while, but I think we’ll get back together when we need to. The Causticles ain’t nuthin’ ta fuck with, after all.
As for Beauty Queen Autopsy I’ve got a bunch of ideas gestating and a few demos in the works. Truthfully the BQA and Caustic Kickstarters have beat the hell out of me in what I owe people, so I’m working on those rewards and my new album on Patreon at the moment. Erica and I are excited to start the next chapter for the band though, and the reception for Lotharia exceeded my expectations, so there’s definitely more to come.
Getting to the end of things here, do you have any live shows coming up for Caustic any time in the future? If so, where can we see the information online? If not, are you in the process of booking any tours or live shows?
Matt: I’m not touring any time soon, as my family is my main priority. I’m doing an Electronic Saviors release party here in Madison on July 9th with GoFight, The Dark Clan, and Am.Psych that I’m looking forward to, as I rarely play live here and I love all the other bands. I’m really stoked to finally play Terminus in Calgary this year alongside Hate Dept, 16volt, Cold Cave, Cygnets, Kanga, and a bunch of other great artists. I have one other big show later this year but can’t announce it yet, but I’m really damn excited to be a part of the lineup.
Lastly, I would like to thank you for your time. You make industrial fun. Feel free to say anything more that needs to be said below. Cheers!
Matt: Thanks man. I really appreciate that. The only thing I’d like to say is if you want to be a part of my new album I’m doing it as a song-a-month (meaning I’m writing them month to month) for Patreon. It’s a platform like Kickstarter but instead of one big pledge you can do a small monthly/per song pledge and get all the cool shit I’ve been working on. I’m working on the fourth track now, and the whole album is going to be exclusive to patrons for quite some time.
More info is HERE. Thanks again!
...on tour you live excessively, faster than real life, you suck it all in and ride the bomb, so to speak, and after the touring is done, you spit it all back out in the studio, however, it has undergone a process of digestion in the meantime, and that is the motivational momentum for me.
KMFDM, Apr 25 2011
I've been writing for Brutal Resonance since November of 2012 and now serve as the editor-in-chief. I love the dark electronic underground and usually have too much to listen to at once but I love it. I am also an editor at Aggressive Deprivation, a digital/physical magazine since March of 2016. I support the scene as much as I can from my humble laptop.
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